Saturday, December 24, 2016

Creating "How Great Thou Art"

How Great Thou Art
by Robert A. Waters

The song, "How Great Thou Art," is one of the most loved hymns of all time. Describing the majestic power of God, and the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the song has touched millions of lives since it was written in 1859 by a Swedish poet named Carl Boberg. The lyrics were later set to the music of a Swedish folk song.

Boberg explained how he came to write the song.  "It was that time of year," he said, "when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared."

The first verse of "How Great Thou Art" describes the above scene:

"Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands have made,

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed." 

In 1949, British missionary Stuart K. Hine translated the song into English, updated the lyrics, and added two verses. It was published in the 1973 edition of The Covenant Hymnbook. "How Great Thou Art" was popularized in America by George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows during the Billy Graham Crusades of the 1950s.

As Christian faith wanes in modern society, "How Great Thou Art" remains a musical lighthouse for many. Atheism, many of whose adherents view faith as a "poison," threatens to become the new religion. Richard Dawkins wrote: "[Christian] faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument."

Yet faith is the stone on which atheists use to hammer out their own theories of the origins of the universe. After trillions of years, they allege, a great explosion rocked the void of nothingness and the universe suddenly formed.  Scientists tell us that never before or after has something come from nothing, but here we are.

Atheists have faith that after the big bang, or whatever generated the universe, complexity arose out of chaos and the vast network of solar systems, stars, and planets formed. It seems almost miraculous.

Sir Isaac Newton is quoted as saying, "Atheism is so senseless. When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and light. This did not happen by chance."

On Planet Earth, everything developed exactly as needed to form life.  Scientists estimate that, on average, every human being is made up of about 37.2 trillion cells. It takes a great deal of faith to believe that the human body formed by itself, out of the blue.

"How Great Thou Art" reminds Christians of the Creator who formed us.

As for atheists, they're free to believe whatever they wish.

"How Great Thou Art" has been sung by hundreds of artists. This version is by Alan Jackson.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Snake vs. Wolf

Chip Jacobs has published several books, mostly about crime in the Los Angeles area.  This excerpt from a story in the recently published book, LA in the 1970s, describes one of the most bizarre cases you'll ever read.  "Snake vs. Wolf" chronicles the true story of crusading lawyer, Paul Morantz, whose efforts to bring down the drug recovery cult Synanon nearly led to his murder at the venom-tipped fangs of a mailbox-dwelling rattlesnake.  I highly recommend this book and have included a link at the end of the this excerpt.

by Chip Jacobs

Everybody, it seems, was watching the little white house on Bollinger Drive: pretty divorcĂ©es and kids on bikes, electronics whizzes and the Westside LAPD. Everybody was keeping a lookout for suspicious activity at the request of the owner, a feather-haired lawyer sleeping with a shotgun by his bed after the creepy sect he helped expose threatened to pay him a visit. Sure, it sounded melodramatic—killers skulking about a coastal town of rustic stores and quiet streets. And still there was that lurking, green Plymouth carrying two men up front and three friends in the trunk.

A real estate appraiser, who’d just stopped at a nearby corner market for a frosty drink, was the first to be flummoxed by it. Here he was, idling behind the sedan at a Pacific Palisades red light, unable to decipher its newfangled vanity license plate: 27 IVC. What narcissistic gloat could that represent? At twenty-seven I varoomed to California? Something about Ventura County? His puzzle-solving brain worked the variations. Then, by looking closer, Les Rahymer knew.

This wasn’t cutesy, aluminum-engraved conceit. This was deception. Lamely applied blue tape—tape the same ubiquitous hue as the plates’ background—concealed a “4” before the “27” and blurred the “G” into a “C”. Rahymer, a dark-haired thirty-something, sat in his black Datsun 280Z, prickled with goose bumps. What was he supposed to do when the Plymouth motored nonchalantly down Baylor Avenue: tail it like a real-life Jim Rockford (whose series filmed blocks away)? No, he was supposed to glimpse into his rearview mirror, where, by sheer happenstance, a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car was whipping left onto Sunset Boulevard like him.

“Did you see that car with the altered license plates?” Rahymer blurted, after waving the officer over. “Write down these numbers before I forget them.” David Ybarro jotted as told and even sketched passengers’ likenesses from the good samaritan’s account. It was a wickedly hot October afternoon, a day before the World Series opened at Dodger Stadium amid bunting and beer commercials.

Wait! Did he say a drab, early-seventies-model Plymouth Executive? If so, Ybarro himself had noticed the car earlier while serving an unrelated subpoena, figuring it for an undercover narcotics vehicle pursuing stoners and snow-white tans. Dispatch reported the car was registered to the group Synanon at its Marin County outpost.

Shazbot, as the kids said: not good. Especially after the dude in the Japanese import took off before Ybarro learned the driver’s name.

Ybarro, who walked a beat in this sun-glistened suburb a few minutes from Will Rogers State Beach, whistled for backup. Two LAPD colleagues, who arrived to hear him out, left, apparently unconcerned. Another pair drove past the lawyer’s range-style home on Bollinger with bougainvillea out back, observing nothing afoul. But Ybarro couldn’t shake the eerie butterflies. A few minutes later he was on Bollinger, telling a bike-riding boy to holler if he spotted the Plymouth. At shift’s end, he logged his experience.

Only the next day would the report surface—in a department trash can, ignored.